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Fess up

“No man,” said Dr. Johnson, “is a hypocrite in his pleasures.” Now, people can be hypocrites about their pleasures, like the fashionable people over the generations who have gone to the opera not for the pleasure of the music but for the pleasure of dressing up and being seen. And many people have guilty pleasures—low tastes that they conceal.

My own most enduring and lifelong pleasure has been reading, and while I do read history and biography for amusement, my low pleasure is reading murder mysteries.

I could, if I liked, try to dress that up. I could say that murder mysteries follow the archetypal pattern that we see in comedy: Into an apparently orderly world, disorder is introduced, and through a realignment of relationships, a new order is created. This is more or less the pattern that W.H. Auden describes in his classic essay on the detective story, “The Guilty Vicarage.” Further, the genre allows the reader to participate vicariously in dangerous and violent actions and impulses at no personal cost, for a psychological discharge of those impulses. (As I have said before, after a long day at work with professional journalists, nothing gives more comfort that a comfortable chair, a strong drink, and an account of disagreeable people meeting violent death.)

But I know in my heart that most of what I read in this vein is of marginal literary achievement.* In “Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?” Edmund Wilson returned to the detective novel after having disparaged Rex Stout (whose complete Nero Wolfe oeuvre I own and re-read periodically) and gave a it second chance after champions of the genre had written to him. On their recommendation, he picked up Dorothy Sayers. Listen to his voice rise: “Well, I set out to read The Nine Tailors in the hope of tasting some novel excitement, and I declare that it seems to me one of the dullest books I have ever encountered in any field. The first part of it is all about bell-ringing as it is practised in English churches and contains a lot of information of the kind that you might expect to find in an encyclopedia article on campanology. I skipped a good deal of this. ... There was also a dreadful stock English nobleman of the casual and debonair kind, with the embarrassing name of Lord Peter Wimsey. ...”

Pace, admirers of Dorothy Sayers. Elsewhere, in the essay “Reading,” collected in The Dyer’s Hand, Auden says, “Pleasure is by no means an infallible critical guide, but it is the least fallible.” If it gives you joy, it has some value.

The guilty pleasures give pleasure, and for reasons. And now, despite my repeated insistence on the importance of getting to the point immediately in writing, I tell you that the previous five paragraphs are merely a prologue to the point of today’s post: I invite you to share your own guilty pleasures, and explain how they satisfy you.

For the sake of seemliness, let’s restrict the comments to books. If your favorite tipple is two parts single malt to one part Gatorade, that is something we would prefer not to know. If you please, the books you genuinely enjoy, regardless of their prestige, and the pleasure they give you:


*I did manage to get through Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code by reading very fast for plot and paying no attention to the prose. But when I picked up Angels and Demons, I started hearing what it sounded like and ground to a halt within a couple of chapters, never to return.



Posted by John McIntyre at 11:36 AM | | Comments (48)


Sayers and (well, fair enough) A A Milne get a fair pasting from Raymond Chandler in The Simple Art of Murder for - wait for it - the unlikely nature of the plots.  This from a man who thought you could plot a novel by throwing two short stories into a pit and letting them fight it out (Chandler was a superb writer, of course, but not in the plotting business).  In the world of crime I go for Sayers, Allingham, Innes, Crispin, Chandler.

But my real guilty (hang on, is this guilt?) pleasure is the splendid children's books of Arthur Ransome.

Good stuff. If you were trying to dissuade me from auditing your class at Loyola then you're going to have to bloody well try harder than this.

You may also enjoy Raymond Chandler's essay "The Simple Art of Murder," which explores the same questions of whether or not murder mysteries constitute Art.

Where to begin? Mystery, science fiction, fantasy: Everything by Rex Stout, Patrick O'Brian. Caleb Carr. Poul Anderson. Thorne Smith, Robert B. Parker.
History and biography: David McCullough, Desmond Morris.
Books about language; all aspects.
Social trends and the soft "sciences" such as politics and economics.
A few examples. What I do NOT do is read something because someone said I SHOULD. I learned that lesson in college. Henry James will forever stay in the "undiscovered country." I DID read "The Turn of the Screw," and regret it to this day.

Philip Roth, Kingsley Amis, Louis Auchincloss, Cynthia Ozick, Don DeLillo, E. Annie Proulx, Paul Auster, Cormac McCarthy. I wouldn't want people I see regularly to know that I frolic with such fetid literary fripperies, but I can't deny that I enjoy my secretive sashays on the lowbrow side.

Anonymous no 1 is me, I'm afraid.

There aren't any books that I think of as *guilty* pleasures (well, pornography perhaps, but the source of pleasure is indirect). That said, I love science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and cozy mysteries, but also books on history, science, lexicography, linguistics, and computer programming.

The series by Lemony Snicket about the misadventures of the Beaudelaire children was the last that kept me up late to read 'just one more chapter.'

I have a large collection of volumes of ghost stories. Every time I buy a new one I read it from cover to cover, even though I've usually read at least half of them before, perhaps many times.

And I sometimes read PG Wodehouse in bed when Mrs Ingram thinks I'm studying Nietzsche or some such stuff (the Kindle is great for hiding guilty pleasures of that kind),

Oh, yes, sure murder mysteries as a guilty pleasure. When I started reading original works in English only, 25 years (yikes!) ago, in addition to The Lord of the Rings, the mystery canon (A. C., Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, some Rex Stout) was my main fodder. Later, going deeper into guilty pleasure territory, it was feminist/lesbian mysteries (Barbara Wilson's Pam Nilsen series. Val McDermid's Lindsay Gordon and Kate Brannigan series, Anne Holt, Danielle Charest in French/Quebecois and a bunch of less well-written ones), but I also love Ian Rankin, Fred Vargas, Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason.

I can do worse, though. For a while I immersed myself into Harry Potter fan fiction, picking out the one-in-500 authors who can write already well enough (and aren't in the early stages of learning the craft any longer). To my discharge, it was a difficult time of my life.

Anything by Alexander McCall Smith! I almost feel as if I am slim, moderately wealthy, and am speaking with a wonderful accent to my friends at that little cafe' or I am smack dab in the middle of Africa not worrying at all that I am traditionally built!

Harry Potter and (dare I say it?) Twilight. Also, Jane Austen.

Almost anything by Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux. And, by Alexander Mccall Smith, books about Mma Precious Ramotswe, the traditionally built, eminently sensible, and cunning proprietor of the only ladies' detective agency in Botswana, 

I can share what gave me pleasure: Perfume by Patrick Suskind, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, Skin Tight by Carl Hiaasen, Florida Roadkill by Tim Dorsey, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, The Elephants of Style by Bill Walsh, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (and others by these authors). But I’m not good at sharing my pleasure. Get your own pleasure from them!

I read and loved all of Dorothy Sayers when I was in my 20s, but haven't been tempted to reread any of those books. I will plead guilty to enjoying anything by Alexander McCall Smith--lately I prefer his gentle mysteries set in Scotland over the Botswana series; it's like a perfect cup of tea or hot chocolate on a miserable wet day.

I am not at all guilt-stricken about loving Laura Lippman's mysteries set in and around Baltimore. I love Tess Monaghan, but the stand-alone mysteries are even better. Highly recommended!

Terry Pratchett never fails to delight; Diskworld is so obviously our world, and yet not--did you know Death's steed is called Binky? Tim Dorsey takes over where Carl Hiaasen leaves off; sex, drugs, and explosions, oh my. Wodehouse in general, 'The Code of the Woosters' in particular; It's the first appearance of the immortal Spode. Among the first class of chickish lit, Joshilyn Jackson and Fannie Flagg,

Nora Roberts. There. I said it.

@Chris.. thank you thank you thank you for reminding me about Ngaio Marsh. I'll be starting those over as soon as the first batch comes from Amazon. There's nothing to feel guilty about with good detective fiction, OR Harry Potter. Vampire novels on the other hand.... I managed to go an entire year and more reading nothing but vampire (or werewolf, or both) stories. Some were good, many were really just not... I had to give up on Anita Blake as it transmogrified into unashamed softcore.. I'm also afraid Stephanie Plum is headed that route :(

A number of years back a dear older lady friend w/ a strong proclivity for murder mysteries, noir-ish detective tomes, and such, turned me on to the mad-cap, breezy, highly entertaining mystery novels of one, Kinky Friedman, whom I was vaguely aware of as theTexas-based Country-style troubadour w/ his motley crew, the IMHO, non-PC Texas Jewboys.Oy!

I knew of the Kinkster's half-hearted failed attempt at running for governor of The Lone Star State some years back, and that he occasionally penned humorous pieces for the Texas Monthly, but a bona fide novelist...... well I was completely gobsmacked by that stunning revelation.

Frankly I had nary a clue that this off-the-wall, cigar-smokin' country artist has written, and has had published well over a dozen mystery novels since the '80s.

After reading his 1997, "Road Kill", I was immediately hooked. His conversational narrative style, along w/ his familiar ensemble of recurring oddball characters, whilst melding fact and fiction into entertaining who-done-its, was irresistible for a solid few months. I ended up reading most of his works, to date, in a relatively short timeframe, and there was not a dull, or unsatisfying read in the entire mix.

For off-center, richly descriptive writing, peppered w/ accents of bawdy humor, and clever turns-of-plot-and-phrase, old Kinky is hard to match.

"Kill Two Birds & Get Stoned", "Steppin' On A Rainbow", "Spanky Watson",
"Blast From the Past", "Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover", "Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola", and "Armadillos & Old Lace" are just a handful of Friedman's frolicking page-turners.

Try him, you'll like him. I'm guilty as charged.


P.S.: ---Dahlink, I recently have been reading Alexander McCall Smith's "The Unbearable Lightness of Scones", his 5th book in the 44 Scotland St. series. Sorry to say, I haven't read ANY of his Botswana-based Lady Detective series, but I really do appreciate the deft way he can spin a narrative. Of course the Scottish connection pulled me into his Scotland Street intrigues. Hard to resist.

Hi, Alex. I haven't read that particular title yet. I like to pick these books up gently used at our annual Smith College book sale every spring. That one will no doubt turn up in good time. At the moment I am partial to the "Sunday Philosophy Club" series with the delightful Isabelle Dalhousie, set in Edinburgh.

I'll ditto the Wodehouse and throw in Tom Sharpe. Also, anything by John D. MacDonald, anything (even the Westerns) by Elmore Leonard, anything by Ian Rankin, Henning Mankell's Wallender books (though I hate the TV adaptation), all of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen novels, and any of Bill Bryson's travel books.

Koushun Takami's Battle Royale was bloody fun, and there's a whole bunch of manga I could list if Mr. McIntyre is interested in comics/graphic novels, which I suspect he is not.

But I opened this up to all my readers' guilty pleasures, not just mine.

JD Considine,

Hmm.......... so you "hate the TV adaptation" of the Wallender novels, w/ Kenneth Branagh portraying the harried Swedish police detective? Hate's a pretty strong emotion.

I rather enjoyed the PBS Wallender series, although it appeared that Branagh's inspector Wallender was almost always in a perpetual state of terminal melancholy, and personal unkemptness. The existential angst was palpable.

My Danish/ Belgian girlfriend really enjoyed Mankell's Wallender novels, which i admit I've yet to read. She found the PBS TV adaptations a bit off-putting as they seemed to soft-peddle the Swedishness of the characters and the environments, putting a British spin on the whole affair.

Though I've made a comfortable living as a professional animation artist for many moons, while wearing several other creative 'hats', as well, I'm not that moved by the manga genre of graphic novels, or meaty comic strip books. I find a great deal of the manga print material to be over-the-top violent, and gory, and overly eroticized. Just my opinion.

Perhaps why this original Japanese popular art form could well fall into the category of a 'guilty pleasure'. Back in the day, namely the Edo period, the elegantly erotic woodcut block prints of the likes of master printmaker, Utamaro, and his "Floating World",were perhaps the precursors of the modern manga phenomenon---that bygone era's guilty pleasure.

Interestingly, I marvel at, and thoroughly enjoy the cinematic, manga-inspired 2-D, largely hand-drawn feature animé masterworks of the veteran Japanese filmmaker, Hayao Miyazaki. The mythic "Spirited Away" is particularly memorable, as was his earlier, "Kiki's Delivery Service". But I digress.

Clearly, our fellow bloggers are a well-read lot. Books are, indeed, one of life's great pleasures, guilty, or otherwise.


Add Josephine Tey, Philip Macdonald,Dame Agatha, Donna Leon (if you like detective stories in which no one is ever arrested and tried - but the stories are set in Venice, after all) and Margaret Daly, an AMerican who wrote an American Lord Peter type - but with cats. I don't feel at all guilty about these literary pleasures - and add P.D. James (with Roy Marsden in mind) to the fray.

//If your favorite tipple is two parts single malt to one part Gatorade, that is something we would prefer not to know.//

You've met our old landlord, then?

Raymond Chandler and a limited number of his followers for me, as long as they stick to Elmore Leonard's foremost rule:

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

I tend, in my OCD-ish way, to gather collections of detective novels. I've noticed over the years that, apart from Rex Stout, my favorite authors present either a different historical period, or a different culture, or both. Nicolas Freeling (in both the Van der Valk and the Castang novels) is the best writer, but I greatly enjoy van Gulik's Judge Dee stories, and Van de Wetering's Dutch policemen, and Hillerman's Navajos, and Melville's Otani, and the difficult Inspector O of North Korea, and so on. I'd rather have a tendentious and superficial knowledge of other cultures than none at all.

Though my entire family reads mysteries like desert dwellers drink water, I never really acquired that taste. Outside of a healthy adolescent enjoyment of sci-fi, I cut my teeth on the original queen of regency romances, Georgette Heyer. The plots are comfortably, reliably repetitious, with variations based more on the setting, the mechanism for the plot twists, or the color of the dresses or horses, but things always tie up neatly with a satisfying end. Lately I discovered some of the fan-fic extensions of various Jane Austen stories--either about the Darcys or the mysteries that star Jane herself. Also nicely done, and a welcome break from relentless reality for this computer bound "knowledge worker".

PtT, I echo the appreciation for Tey! I've read the entire set and think she's a dream, but I consider her quite literary and not something to feel guilty about at all.

Then again, I don't feel much guilt about my reading pleasures generally. Why should I care what someone thinks of the fact that I've read every mystery Dick Francis ever wrote?


Alex --

Your girlfriend is spot on regarding the Kenneth Branagh-ized Wallender. On TV, he's not a Swede, he's a Brit. Moreover, where the print Wallender cogitates, worries, doubts, frets, and has a tremendous distaste for firearms, the Branagh version is not only forever leaping into action but seems to relish whipping out his sidearm. The resemblance to Mankell's books does not extend much beyond the basics of plot. On the whole, you'd get a more genuine sense of Sweden at your local IKEA.

As for manga, you're talking out of your hat. Manga in translation is the biggest and most dynamic part of the US comics market, and the typical consumer is a teenage girl, a demographic not exactly famous for its fondness for gore and over-the-top violence. The best-selling titles here tend to of the romantic comedy variety, a field that runs the gamut from straight-up high school romance to stories imbued with a sci-fi or supernatural aspect. Inu Yasha, which falls under the latter, is truly excellent, and much smarter than the vampire sagas promulgated on this side of the Pacific. Samurai-era stories are also quite popular, with Naruto, about a young ninja with aspirations to greatness, being perhaps the best-known in English.

Your notion that manga is " over-the-top violent, and gory, and overly eroticized" suggests you've read about manga more than actually perusing the stuff itself. Ian Buruma's book Behind the Mask did much to put across the notion that manga reflects what is, by Western standards, a fondness for deviant art, and a lot of (lazy) American journalists like to repeat the old saw about salarymen openly reading sex comics during their morning commute, an image which is striking but hardly representative of either manga or its readership.

In truth, such extreme manga is no more part of the mainstream in Japan than Zap Comics were in the U.S. Manga is read by everyone -- young, old, male, female -- and its topics reflect that diversity. There are men's manga, women's manga, manga for teenage girls, manga for teenage boys, etc. The tankouban editions in Japanese bookstores tend to be grouped by readership age and gender more than by topic.

One of the longest-running titles and most popular titles in Japan is Oishinbo, a manga about food and cooking that offers extremely detailed information on food and food preparation, along with the occasional drama and/or recipe. There are dozens upon dozens of sports titles. To give you some idea of just how broadly that topic is taken, there's an anime show on Japanese TV at the moment called "Moshi Nihon no Joshi Manager ga Drucker no 'Management' o Yondara," which translates as"What if a Japanese Female Baseball Manager Read Peter Drucker's 'Management'?" Really.

If you'd like a good historical/critical overview of manga, check out Frederik L. Schodt's Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga. You might want to look at the selection of manga in translation at your local bookstore, or since you're in LA, visit a branch of Kinokuniya or Book Off to see the real thing,

The Captain Underpants series, because in some ways I'm still a 12-year-old boy at heart who can't help laughing at fart jokes.

I haven't seen the Branagh-ized Wallender, only some of the Swedish one starring Krister Henriksson, which is pretty Swedish. But I haven't read the books.

My guilty pleasures include Connie Willis and Isaac Asimov, Alexander McCall Smith (Botswana only, the others don't do anything for me) and Kerry Greenwood. What do they have in common? Probably the fact that they are all completely removed from reality, and nothing really ghastly happens in them.

I don't just love to read, I have to read.

Science fiction and fantasy. Anything by Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Henlein (I LIKED Number of the Beast!), or Anne McCaffrey. When I'm really into guilt, it's Nora Roberts, Johanna Lindsey, and Stephanie Laurens.

But worst of all, I read Spider Robinson...for the puns!

Nora: If you liked science fiction and enjoy romance, you might like Lois McMaster Bujold's work, particularly the sf duology "Komarr" and "A Civil Campaign", and the fantasy tetralogy "The Sharing Knife". You can read the first two on line for free (perfectly legit, not bootlegs) at .

How apropros - no writer is closer to my heart than Dorothy Sayers. I have whole sections of Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon memorized. I don't much care if other people do or don't like her; she is my extremely personal passion for a number of anglophiliac mystery-loving idiosyncratic reasons.

I used to read a great deal of mystery, and now I find myself drawn to fantasy, about which I am sort of embarassed. (I'm an English major; shouldn't I be wrapped up in Eliot and Austen, rather than chasing faerie?) My tastes mirror Vireya's, apparently, so I will have to look up Kerry Greenwood.

JD Considine,

Although I'm not partial to wearing hats, I must concede that perhaps I was "talking out of (my) hat', as you so bluntly put it, w/ my admitted myopic view of what you've passionately, and most convincingly explained is a comic genre, i.e., manga, w/ a widely diverse gender -and-age fan-base demographic, and a whole wide range of subject matter, w/ varied narrative strains . Clearly, not all manga is consumed by violence, sex, and gore. I humbly stand corrected.

You were also quite perceptive in surmising that I hadn't read many manga works, being admittedly more familiar w/ critical reviews and slanted media commentary on the subject, usually from a skewed Western perspective.

I liked your "old saw" reference. It's so true how we often judgmental Westerners tend to stereotype the seemingly typically repressed, ultra-conservative, public transit-commuting Japanese young business man, hunched intently over his two-inch-thick manga comic, perhaps his sole 'guilty pleasure' beyond the humdrum of the workplace, or a little private respite from a boring, or loveless marriage.

I appreciated your analogy to Zap Comix as attracting a similar fringe readership, not unlike those marginal manga enthusiasts who gravitate to the more far out, or extreme story lines, and shocking visuals.

The masterful comic drawings of R. Crumb, back in '60s San Francisco spoke to the blossoming counter-culture of Dr. Tim Leary's so-called turned-on-and-dropped-out younger generation----Crumb's joint tokin', streetwise love children, and stoned hippie freaks seemingly having casual cartoon sex at the mere drop of an 'acid' blotter. However, Crumb's Mr. Natural wasn't everyone's cup of tea, by a long shot.

I'll try to check out Frederik L. Schodt's "Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga". I'm aware that L.A.'s downtown Little Tokyo district is a great resource for manga, in both the original Japanese and to some degree, in translation. I go there, on occasion to pick up some amazing brush pens, and cool handmade drawing papers.

JD, thanks again for the informative lesson.


Timothaeus: My favorite Tey is "The Singing Sands" - lovely writing with a touch of romance thrown in .Try also the Dalziel and Pascoe series by Reginald Hill.

PtT, I love Tey's "Miss Pym Dosposes" best, with "Brat Farrar" a close second. Frankly, Miss Pym (the character) almost makes me cry while Brat gives me a sense of triumph.

Melissa Jane, "Gaudy NIght" is the height of the Wimsey canon. I wish I had portions memorized.


That makes three of us who love "Gaudy Night."

re "Gaudy Night", solidarity sisters!


And I, too, cast a vote for the excellent Reginald Hill. Franny Roote in particular is a brilliantly conceived character. Best to try to take them chronologically, I suppose, but Janeites who don't know Hill might like to sample the Sanditon theme in A Cure for All Diseases.

Yet another Sayers fan here. What do y'all think of Jill Paton Walsh's contributions? I find them very satisfying, not because they are good Sayers imitations, but because they continue the series in a direction I find satisfying.

I was going to ask that, JC, because I've never read them. Your Mark of Approval gives me hope. It's not just that Pemberley thing, then?

If I think of guilty pleasures as the reads that I might be embarrassed to 'fess up to my colleagues over in the English department, at the top of the list would have to be Louis L'amour -- adventure, strong characters (including many wonderfully strong women), and a refreshing lack of gore and smut. And I'm with Eve in admitting (reluctantly in public) to reading Nora Roberts/JDRobb. John Grisham (Playing for Pizza), Donna Leon (ahhh, Venice), and Anne Perry would be in there along with Laurie King (esp. her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series), Anne McCaffrey, Sue Grafton, Robin McKinley, Mercedes Lackey. PDJames would be on the list too. I don't connect with Dorothy Sayers, although I've tried--perhaps I'll see if the base library has Gaudy Night and try once more. Fortunately many slumming books of the past (by Marion Zimmer Bradley, AConan Doyle, Alexander Dumas, Tolkien, Agatha Christie, etc.) are now considered literature, which reduces the guilt load of my pleasure reading.

I may have missed it among all the comments, but it seems none of the Sayers fans have pointed out that the Lord Peter Wimsey/Bunter duo was directly drawn from Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, only of course Wimsey was passing himself off as a clothheaded aristo/man about town, whereas Bertie was the real thing.

Anyway, for those who like mysteries of the decidedly uncozy kind, I recommend the work of the late James Crumley, especially his first book, The Last Good Kiss, which came out in the 1970s. In addition to the best title ever (taken from a poem by Richard Hugo) it was a pioneering work of regional mystery writing, being set in Montana. His 2nd best also has a great title--The Wrong Case. It also takes place in the mountain West.

In the thriller category, another book from the 70s, Vincent Patrick's The Pope of Greenwich Village gets high marks. It's a great heist story with many twists and turns.

I'm not sure about direct from Wodehouse. Didn't Cervantes have a similar idea? And it's a common enough relationship in the 20th century - Templar and 'Orace, Campion and Lugg.

True that, Picky, but in _Murder Must Advertise_ Miss Meteyard explicitly describes Wimsey (in his Death Bredon alias) thus: "Cross between Ralph Lynn and Bertie Wooster."

What's more, Bunter is much closer to Jeeves than to any of the other sidekicks you mention (even Sancho with his proverbs). Consider this "handsome period", as the narrator of _The Nine Tailors_ calls it:

"Better move on quickly, my lord," said Bunter, " because while the manoeuvre has been attended with a measure of success, it is possible that I have robbed His Majesty's Mails by obtaining a postal packet under false pretences."

Surely that has the true Wodehousian stamp?

Indeed it has. I collapse. How did he speak when a sergeant, I wonder?

As others above, a devoted reader of Dorothy Sayers, P.G. Wodehouse, Terry Pratchett, Connie Willis, Georgette Heyer (The Talisman Ring is a favorite)...

Books I would put in my own "guilty pleasures" category: 1) Patricia Veryan's two Regency and Georgian adventure/romance series (lots of plot and character development)
2)John Bellairs' creepy-books-for-kids series, with characters like Miss Eells the librarian and Professor Childermass. There are all sorts of references to interesting trivia (names of architectural details, the words to St. Patrick's Breastplate, etc.).

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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